In times of need, what do you say?

I stuttered and stammered and, later when I was alone, I shook my head in disgust for making a fool of myself.

I barely had a chance to take a sip from my coffee several weeks ago when I ran into a former coworker who recently lost his wife. She was involved in a serious car crash. She was coming home from picking up a few groceries, when another car rear-ended her stopped car, sending it into the other lane and into the path of an oncoming truck. She died instantly. My friend had taken a few weeks off from work to mourn and to help his kids adjust.

I knew my friend had been back to work for a few days, but we hadn’t seen each other. We used to run into each other on a regular basis in the local Wawa, both getting our cup of jolt for the day. I was looking for him because I wanted to be sure to pass along my best wishes. We’re not extremely close, but I wanted him to know that others were thinking about him. Of course, my thoughts were a jumbled mess and came out in a disorganized assault of words.

In my defense, what do you say to an acquaintance at his most vulnerable, in his neediest time?

I finished up by encouraging him to reach out if he needed anything and that he was in my thoughts and prayers. If he were family, I would have given him a long hug. Since we’re both men, in a cold work-like environment, however, we nodded, shook hands and went our separate ways.

He mentioned getting together some time for lunch. I said I would forward an email from another friend who’s working now in Boston. And with that we were back in full work mode like nothing ever happened.

I told my wife that evening about my awkward conversation and she laughed at me for “being a typical stupid guy unable to express my true feelings” and for worrying about it. “I’m sure he was just glad you asked about him,” she said. “It’s the thought that counts.”

Death can be a tricky issue. Life for that matter too. When my father died, I remember countless people offering support and kind words. I have trouble remembering most of them, but they were still very much appreciated. The mere act of reaching out, helped get me through a challenging time.

I hope that’s the case for my friend. I hope that he’s able to look past the stuttering and stammering and see someone that cares.

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